6-Dec

Talks

Textless Presentations

When creating a presentation it's good to have your own style, adding your own touch. Over the years creating different presentations for conferences or for a demo, I have developed my own approach when creating the slides. I want to present it for you, and I hope you like it!

5 min read

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By Caroline Odden

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December 6, 2020

There are several ways to design your slides when creating a presentation. Do you have content-rich slides and few pages, or do you have 40 views for a 10 minute talk? The last one is me. I prefer to create slides with minimal texts, a lot of images or illustrations, and where I have to press the Enter button several times a minute (almost).

Disclaimer: This is my point of view. I'm not saying that other ways of creating presentations is wrong, but this is they way I prefer to make presentations.

Remove the wall-of-text

It is hard to remember everything you need to say in a long presentation, especially if it is an in-depth talk and you need to get all your facts right. However, when I’m having a lot of text on my slides, it feels like I’m loosing the connection with the audience. The listeners will focus on the slide and read the text simultaneously as to listening to what I’m currently saying to them. I also throw myself off guard more easily if I forgot to say something that's in the pile of text.

I have found it liberating to shorten the text on my slides to the minimum. I use short sentences, bullet list, even only single words sometimes. Choose the most important words to present to the listeners. You can use them as reminder of what you are going to tell without it sounding like you are reading from a manuscript. If you forget some of the sentences you had written down before, maybe it wasn't an important part of your talk.

Use informative pictures and illustrations

I find it more successful to use pictures or illustration in my presentation to catch the attention of the listeners. I often try to find screenshots, pictures or even gifs to illustrate the things I want to explain (you can easily make a gif from a video you record 🤓). Sometimes I dedicate an entire page of my presentation for an emoji, as long as it makes sense of what I'm going to say. By adding these "creative" slides, I think it will more successfully capture the listeners attention. At least for me, I’m definitely paying more attention then!

Take a moment to think about the information you want to convey to other, and think "How can I convert it to something other than text". You want to show your working method in your team? Take a picture of the post-its. You want to show the structure of your system, make a drawing with arrows to show the flow. Draw something by hand, or go to Google Drawings. There are many possibilities!

Multiple slides and frequent switches

So we have gotten rid of the text-heavy pages, and added the informative pictures to our slides instead. How are we now supposed to remember all we want to say? I'm using each change of slide as a reminder of the things I'm going to say. If there is a part that I keep forgetting to mention when I'm practicing, I add a new page for that specific part that reminds me of it. It's almost (with a little exaggeration) that for every new sentence, I go to the next slide.

Often I want to present as little information as possible to the user, I only present the information I want they to focus on. When adding a bullet list, I only show the first item, and then press enter to show the next, etc. Another example is when I'm showing a code snippet I break it down to the part I especially want them to focus on, and keep adding the next part when I begin to talk about it. The attention span for most people is short, make it easier for the users to focus.

Disadvantages with this method

As I said in the introduction, this is a way I have discovered along the way of creating presentations that works for me. It doesn't suit everyone. First of all, you need to use a lot of time creating the slides, adjusting the text and what you want to illustrate. It will require some tweaking. You also rely on that you are close to your computer or a "clicker" for being able to change slides often, preventing you from running across the stage every time you need to show a new slide. Finally, it requires that you have time to practice on your presentation multiple times to know where you need to add a slide or two, if you are a spontaneous person this may not be the way for you.

Voilà!

We have talked about removing the wall of text, enriching the slides with illustrations and pictures, and using every change of slide as a reminder of what you are going to talk about next. This is the way I am creating textless presentations, which are helping me become more free of my presentation notes and more calm when I'm talking.

This was a little introduction to how I make my presentations. Hope you liked it!

6-Dec